(CN) - A San Diego newspaper can't appeal an order granting class certification to a group of carriers who are suing over wages, the 9th Circuit ruled, though a dissenting judge expressed concern that the resulting exposure to $18 million in liability places the paper in a "death-knell situation."
Despite the dissent of Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain, the federal appeals court upheld U.S. District Judge Ted Moskowitz's July 27 order granting class certification to about 800 distributors of the North County Times.
The carriers claimed that parent company Lee Publications misclassified them as independent contractors in order to avoid paying them overtime and to shirk other labor requirements.
In his dissenting opinion, Judge O'Scannlain said the July order "is questionable because deciding whether each distributor is an employee requires fact-intensive inquiries that are specific to each member of the class."
"Although I do not necessarily think that the district court's judgment is manifestly erroneous, I must respectfully dissent from our order denying permission to appeal," O'Scannlain wrote.
"I am persuaded that its decision is at least debatable and is likely to evade review because of the intense settlement pressure posed by class certification."
He said Lee Publications "faces a 'death-knell situation,' because certification will expose it, a member of the struggling newspaper industry, to $18 million in liability, thereby exerting intense settlement pressure."
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.